Senators News: July 12th

-The Chris Neil signing is now official

Don Brennan echoes himself and Bruce Garrioch (from last week) by writing another article about how the Sens aren’t tough enough.  Unlike in the other columns Brennan actually includes a theory behind why they need to be tougher, “Many feel that Ottawa was able to stage so many third-period comebacks last season partly because opponents knew that if they ran up the score, they’d take a beating from Neil, Konopka or Carkner.”  This is, of course, nonsense, but let me unpack it: both Neil and Carkner were part of the 2010-11 team that didn’t come back on anybody, so unless Konopka by himself was causing comebacks in the games he played, the idea simply doesn’t wash.  There’s really no sense to the sentiment at all, as Carkner barely played last season, Konopka was scratched during the stretch run.  It’s also not an argument based on facts–it’s a “feeling” based on the addition of one player (Konopka).  This argument about toughness has been dynamited over and over again, but oddly has some kind of currency in the blogosphere.  [Travis Yost also points out flaws in the argument.]

Nichols points out that Bruce Garrioch’s (and others) expectation that the Sens can walk away from Kaspars Daugavins after arbitration are wrong.  What they can do is either buy him out or trade him (the latter is more likely).

-Here’s my profile of Tyler Eckford.

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Player Profile: Tyler Eckford

Tyler Eckford (DL, 6’1, DOB 1985, 7-217/04, Capgeek: 600k/175k)
2009-10 AHL Lowell 61-8-23-31 +11 26pim (ppg 0.51)
2009-10 NHL New Jersey 3-0-1-1 Even 4pim (ppg 0.33)
2010-11 AHL Lowell 37-2-10-12 -8 12pim (ppg 0.32)
2010-11 NHL New Jersey 4-0-0-0 -1 0pim (ppg 0.00)
2011-12 AHL Portland 75-10-15-25 -13 37pim (ppg 0.33)

An offensively-minded blueliner whose career year was three seasons ago, Ottawa signed him to a two-year, two-way deal.  Eckford played for Portland last year (Phoenix’s affiliate), his first season away from the Devils organisation.  Portland was one of the more offensively productive teams last year (they were 10th in AHL scoring) and Eckford finished second in defensive scoring and ninth in overall points .  He also had the worst plus/minus on the team among those players who played the bulk of the season (no one played more games for the Pirates than he did).  Hockey’s Future has an embarrassingly positive (and dated) assessment of him, “His added strength on his skates made him more powerful, yet allowed him to maintain his speed and mobility. It has also allowed him to be more effective in his one-on-one play in addition to being more physically aggressive. Eckford, a converted forward-to-defenseman, possesses great puck skills. His superb ability to distribute the puck smartly and effectively has made him a mainstay on the Nanooks power play. Eckford has great on-ice vision and awareness. He has little trouble finding and getting passes to open teammates. He can make some really nice tape-to-tape passes and sets up his teammates remarkably well. He loves to join the play and this season also saw some marked improvement in his transition game.”  Once considered a legitimate NHL prospect (see the link), those lofty goals are now discarded.  His addition will help insulate Patrick Wiercioch and add offensive depth on the blueline and I expect him to play in the top-four.  The only odd thing in Eckford‘s history is that he missed a chunk of the 2010-11 for unexplained family reasons, but clearly whatever those were had no discernible impact on him last season.